BOULDER--Through early February, a team of scientists is sending probesinto the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean to learn more about clear airturbulence. Research aircraft are dropping instruments over portions ofthe ocean to improve forecasts of weather systems and provide insightinto the sudden, invisible gusts that pose an extreme hazard toaircraft. The program is a collaborative effort between the NationalCenter for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Federal Aviation Administration,and the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Monterey, California. NCAR'sprimary sponsor is the National Science Foundation.
Commercial pilots flying east take advantage of the fast-moving winds atabout 35,000 feet, in the jet stream's central core, to gain extramomentum. However, this puts them at risk for clear air turbulence.Twenty passengers aboard a Japanese airliner were injured on January 20as the aircraft was struck by severe turbulence above the northwestPacific just east of Japan. Scientists want to understand why some jetstreams produce severe turbulence and others do not. "The idea is toexamine the core's structure to see what role it might be playing inclear air turbulence," says NCAR scientist Robert Gall.
The special observations of turbulence are piggybacking onto the WinterStorm Reconnaissance flights being sponsored by NOAA's National WeatherService (NWS) in cooperation with the NOAA Aircraft Operations Centerand the U.S. Air Force Reserves. Researchers are planning two dedicatedmissions with the NOAA G-IV aircraft from Honolulu between January 16and February 15, in addition to the Winter Storm Reconnaissance flights.
Dropwindsondes deployed into turbulent areas of the jet stream willprovide data on the structure of the jet stream between 27,000 and45,000 feet, the flight altitude of major airlines. The project's datawill be used to verify experimental turbulence prediction models atNCAR, NOAA, and NRL and to learn how operational NWS forecast modelsmight be improved to give pilots more accurate warnings of turbulence.
NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research,a consortium of more than 60 universities offering Ph.D.s in atmosphericand related sciences.
Note to Editors: Members of the media are invited to participate inthe Pacific data-gathering missions. For details on getting on theflights, flight dates, and times from Honolulu, contact: Delores Clark,NOAA Public Affairs, Honolulu, (808) 532-6411.
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